Organized for a second year by Estonian Arts Centre (EAC), the charity associated with KESKUS International Estonian Centre, ‘Nou Pois Äläud’ women’s Estonian folkdance weekend retreat just north of Toronto attracted some 60+ dancers from across North America, and cranked the intensity/complexity of the dances up a notch or two from last year.
Cheeky name, fun weekend
The women’s weekend workshop borrows from Estonian dance festival preparations, and was given its cheeky name by workshop initiator Ellen Valter to reflect Estonian diaspora norms of making language fit the needs. All were warmly welcomed to watch the performance midday on the workshop’s Sunday.
With inclusion this year of 11 dancers from Jõgevahe Pere, Jõgeva, Estonia, including lead instructor Marika Järvet, the level of dancing at this second retreat was definitely elevated.
“It was just wonderful to be here again for NPÄ-II,” enthused Marika (left (photo: Peeter Põldre)), “the dancers were up for a challenge and the dances this year were definitely more complicated.”
New friendships were formed and old friends, sisters, mother-daughters reconnected during the 2-day retreat culminating in a polished 30-minute performance. Watch here:
“It’s astonishing that the dancers managed to put on this level of performance in just 48-hours! It was like a Tantsupidu sampler delivered to my doorstep!” said Katrin Marley who drove the hour from Toronto to take in the free performance.
Top 10 reasons to attend NPÄ
Workshop organizer and KESKUS project lead Ellen Valter noted that there are many reasons to attend NPÄ, and readily rattled off a top-10 list of why to attend tantsulaager: physical and mental fitness, connection to heritage, connection to others in the diaspora, language immersion, excellent food, meeting wonderful women from Estonia, fresh air, sauna, activities with besties/family, and, of course – rahvatants!
Participants registered from many parts of the world. Anna-Liisa Sepp, returned after the first Tantsulaager again for this second installation, travelling from New York where she’s a doctoral student. “It was so much fun last year, there was no way I would miss it – definitely worth the trip from NYC!”
Photos: Peeter Põldre,Johanna Helin
Dancers nourished and supported
Dancers were well cared for on the nourishment side by Katrin Kütti-Otsa and her team, more here. After every meal, one of the many sponsors helping make the retreat a success was provided the opportunity to discuss its mission with participants – heartfelt thanks go to the organizer EAC, and to sponsors Integratsiooni Sihtasutus, Eesti Kultuurkapital, Estonian American National Council, Estonian Foundation of Canada, Estonian Canadian Central Council and Northern Birch Credit Union.
Photos: Peeter Põldre, Katrin Kütti-Otsa
After dinner, there was no more rahvatants, but that didn’t mean that dancing stopped. “Learning about the history of castanets and a hands-on introduction on how to play them by flamenco artist Carmen Romero was an unexpected treat”, noted returning participant Mari Teedla from Connecticut “added bonus that we could do it sitting down after a full day of dancing!”
On the second night Bobby Chong was back from NPÄ-I for an hour of line dance instruction. “I love line dancing!”, said Julia Balan, back for a second NPÄ from Ottawa, “I might have been tired but just couldn’t give up the opportunity to move to completely different music, knowing that I could forget the steps right after dancing them, then head off to saun and a deep restorative sleep!”
Getting to a Tantsupidu will not be a casual effort
“NPÄ-II was instructive in so many ways, not the least of which is that it brought home how complex the journey to a Tantsupidu can be for dancers, as well as what it must take to organise such a mammoth event,” noted Anneli Andre-Barrett from Toronto, participating in NPÄ for the first time.
Photos: Peeter Põldre
Indeed the next women’s dance festival is in 2027, but before that is the main Tantsupidu, in 2025, and before that, the Culture Capital of Europe celebrations including a Tantsupidu, in Tartu in 2024. Some of the NPÄ dancers are keen to try to participate in all of these and form a group to apply to these festivals.
The 2027 event is particularly special for women’s groups because it is the only Tantspidu on such a scale where grandmother’s groups aka ‘memmede rühmad’ have their own repertoire. There just may be a special ‘memmed’ group for NPÄ-III!
As the participants catch their breath, they’ll make plans for the next steps to the next opportunity to dance together. Keep abreast of these plans by signing up for the KESKUS newsletter here.
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